Directed by George Gallo, The Comeback Trail follows Max Barber, a film producer, who after facing death threats from the mob due to his debt, comes across a fraudulent idea to make a guaranteed profit.
Combining a premise like that of The Comeback Trail and stars like Morgan Freeman, DeNiro, and Tommy Lee Jones feels too good to be true. In many ways, it almost is. All three veterans have incredible chemistry and more than making their mark through the course of the movie. Robert DeNiro in particular looks like he had an absolute blast being in the movie. Watching the movie makes you realize it comes from someone who loves film. However, that doesn’t always equate to being able to make a great movie and The Comeback Trail isn’t one by a significant margin. Yes, there are many enjoyable laughs and entertaining performances. It still, however, isn’t nearly close to what you would expect from a premise like this.
The Dullest gun in the West
The Comeback trail starts off very strong. It has been a while since a comedy hooked me this well and I was as invested. DeNiro’s fraudulent idea involves hiring Tommy Lee Jones, an almost forgotten star, who has very little to live for, and killing him on set for insurance reimbursement. All he must do is find a way to kill him. A premise so exciting got me thinking of the countless possibilities in-store. Unfortunately, once DeNiro sets on his mission, the fun flatlines. The entire second and third act feels like a huge, missed opportunity.
Tommy Lee Jones’s character, Duke Montana, has three near death moments, all of which are very underwhelming set-pieces. With a premise like this you’d expect people getting hurt in the most ridiculous ways possible, but The Comeback trail has none of that. It’s not the fact that Montana finds ways to survive but it’s how it happens that’s so disappointing. He is either not put to the test and when he is, he survives in implausible ways. Even when there are potentially brutal moments that would’ve worked wonders, the camera just abruptly cuts. A major chunk of the movie is these set pieces and honestly, none of them are worth remembering. The movie does have a justification for it, in a redemption arc for Max Barber. However, none of it feels earned. Because we just don’t see him struggle enough, his happy ending just doesn’t feel right.
The movie is still plenty fun and I recommend it for its three big actors. DeNiro, Freeman, and Jones are playing probably the most unusual characters I’ve seen them play in recent years. All three have hilarious interactions, thanks to some very quippy and smart dialogue. Despite the events feeling underwhelming, I still remember multiple scenes vividly. This is more than I can say for many ‘objectively’ good movies out there.
The Comeback Trail doesn’t make the most of its amazing premise and its R-Rating but does have some very entertaining characters for its three veteran actors. Some genuinely hilarious moments aside, its underwhelming second and third act leaves a lot to be desired.